A few days before leaving home for my freshman year of college, my brother's friend, Duane, stopped by our house. His sister, who was heading to the same place, stood at his side. Duane said something like, "Since you are both going to be at the same place, you should get to know each other. It will be good to know at least one other person." We eyed each other suspiciously like untrusting teenagers are prone to do and wondered who the other might be. Each concluding that the other was a bit snooty, carelessly tossed the idea aside, thinking that surely there will be better girls to get to know there.
But when the first day came and I was faced with a whole class of nameless faces I found myself wishing this sister-of-my-brother's-friend hadn't been delayed for a few days before starting her college career.
On the day she arrived, we became instant best friends. Living in different dorms did not deter us. She found friends from Ormseth and I did the same at Salveson Hall but together we grew in every way. She was in select choir and played the piano. I loved to write and sew. She was outgoing and I was quite reserved. But something clicked.
I think part of why I loved this kid was because of her bright personality. She was innocent and happy. She often sang to herself was rather carefree and...more importantly (to me) she came from what I viewed as "a perfect family." Her mom stayed at home and her dad was a biology teacher. How can you get more stable than a teacher for a dad??? In addition to her older brother, she had darling younger sister and they all lived in a nice house in Brandon, South Dakota. I longed for the lightness of her spirit and the out-going-ness of her bright smile. She walked too fast, laughed too loudly and even snorted sometimes but I quickly learned to love and trust this happy new friend of mine.
In time, Onalee became my confidante, the first to ever hear of some of the hurt I held regarding my life before college. She listened as I poured out my heart concerning the embarrassment of my broken family, the anguish of my lack of confidence, and the life story I held very closely. I remember saying to her, "You don't know me. No one knows me." The real truth was I didn't know me.
In the following years Onalee and I moved in and out of each other's lives. We stayed friends but found ourselves in different stages much of the time. She, my maid of honor when we were 25, found and married her mister right ten years later. We both gained other friends, became part of different church families, lived in opposite sides of the state, kept up with each others' siblings and grew in our faith. We celebrated our children's births, lives and marriages and helped each other grieve some deep losses. Tears, listening ears, caring attitudes and many loving phone calls accompanied our journey through 43 years, so far. Our lives were diverse but our hearts stayed knit together as long term friendships tend to do.
Recently she and I traveled to a city half-way between her town and mine to celebrate our friendship and the first year of a new decade of birthdays. Talking non-stop, we reviewed the years and recalled our life stories. With delicious food, a first-class B & B Inn and an inviting coffee shop with plenty of caffeine to spur us on, we talked into the night. Some past matters came up and were cleared up. Other stories reminded us of our varied life experiences. Behind it all was an awareness that God's beautiful grace has allowed us to love him passionately and to become strong, deep and interesting women .
And here we are, 60 years old and still lovely, vibrant people, excited to grow and to move forward in these lives we've been given. God has blessed us and given us ways to know Him better, to hear his heartbeat, speak his words in our own unique ministries. Neither of us has experienced perfect or pain free lives. But we both agreed that to have faith in a sovereign God enables us to walk in freedom, forgiveness and hope that all has taken place with a purpose. Our loving God knows us fully and is delighted when we are fully ourselves.
This one's for you my friend, Onalee! May we have many more years to celebrate the one life we've been given. Who could have imagined, when Duane stopped by in 1971, that all these years later we would be celebrating a friendship that is still growing, moving forward and continues to mean the world to us both.